There are stories everywhere about Amazon launching a music store, as soon as next month, that would feature unprotected downloadable music.
If true, and we should point out that the stories about Amazon launching a music download service have been around for over a year now, it would be the biggest thing in digital music since the iPod, and maybe even more important than iTunes. It would also make Kirk seem scarily prescient, as he predicted this exact thing back in January.
For now, I’m cautiously optimistic, as the unified front the major labels have put up regarding DRM seems to be slowly cracking — thanks to EMI — and given the ongoing downward spiral in CD sales, they need to do something, and not just limit the unprotected music to classical, as Universal is rumoured to be doing. Or not doing, depending on what you read.
Imagine if they made a decision that was customer-friendly, and treated us with actual respect! That understood that, for music lovers, the decision to purchase music isn’t binary, but actually complex. A decision that understood that there is always going to be music shared from person to person to person, and that the passing around music doesn’t necessarily mean a lost sale in the present, but always represents a potential sale in the future.
It would change everything.
Yeah, what a happy flower rainbow land I sometimes live in.
Still, if the Majors give in to Amazon’s request, obviously Apple won’t be that far behind, as well as Napster, Rhapsody, and all the rest. At that point, it will stop being about locking the customer into some kind of closed-loop system, and more about offering actual value for their money. Value such as higher bit rates; special offerings (something that iTunes and eMusic do very well — have you heard that awesome Lollapalooza show by The Hold Steady?); and flexible pricing.
In other words, imagine what would happen if the sellers of digital downloads could concentrate on leveraging the strengths of digital music as opposed to spending their time figuring out ways to cripple it.
Sure, this might mean the end for digital music sellers with dodgy or anti-consumer business models, such as Spiral Frog and 9th Exchange, but so be it.
Of course, it might not happen at all — Amazon has a lot of juice, but do they have that much juice? I certainly hope so.